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Staying productive and protected in times of load shedding

By Raeford Liebenberg, manager at Silver Moon, a Galix company

South Africa is going through a well-documented economic hardship and this has been perpetuated by our current energy provision woes.  Load shedding undoubtedly places strain on our daily operations, however, with people Working From Home (WFH) it has added an additional layer of complexity.

Managing the output

When the country is in the midst of load shedding, each area in the respective metropoles gets its turn according to a set schedule and stage. And yes, this makes sense to shed the load so to speak but when three of your team members come from three different metropoles in three different provinces, it gets tricky.

How do you ensure that all employees and clients are available at an allocated time, circumventing scheduled load shedding and the resultant connectivity and power supply issues? 

It’s not just a productivity problem

Also, load shedding does not only lead to loss in productivity but is also potentially harmful to equipment such as notebooks, desktops and connectivity as surges, when the power is restored, can be incredible damaging.  Furthermore, brownouts are equally harmful as equipment is receiving a low current (voltage is too low) which is often the case when the grid is under pressure.

The above is further exacerbated by constrained cashflow due to COVID-19; companies and individuals simply don’t have the money to invest in state-of-the-art alternative energy sources or new equipment.

What you can control

So, where does this leave us particularly when load shedding is announced suddenly and we all have to scramble to ensure our laptops and phones are charged, crossing fingers that closest cellular tower’s backup battery will last?

A good place to start is evaluate what steps you can implement that are practical and importantly attainable.  The first logical step is to – if possible – backup your work and charge your notebook. It might seem like a no-brainer but often we lose track of time and are caught unaware.

Second, if you are WFH, start looking at alternative energy sources such as an Uninterrupted Power Supply ( UPS ) which isn’t overly expensive, and depending on the specifications, can power, at the very least, your notebook and connectivity devices.

A UPS also has a second, especially important, function.  It will protect your (UPS connected) hardware against power surges and brownouts as it has been designed to regulate your energy supply and take the hit in the event of a massive power surge.

If possible, also try and upgrade some of your aged hardware. Newer options today are designed to be less susceptible to complete hardware damage and usually it’s just the power unit, in insolation that is affected.  This is far cheaper to replace than your entire notebook.

Staying connected

During load shedding, the idea is to stay connected to the Internet. Currently, SA has various connectivity options available but fibre and cellular network connectivity such 4G and 5G seem to be leading the charge.

The question therefore begs what connectivity is the best when you’re stuck without power?  Fibre providers typically have the necessary backup power systems in place to ensure that their service stays uninterrupted.

Here, however, you will need a UPS or other alternative energy source to ensure that your fibre Optical Network Terminal ( ONT ) and router are connected to provide Internet access.

Cellular options such as 4G and 5G are also quite readily available options, however, the network does start experiencing lag and packet loss if it becomes too congested which is often the case during load shedding. 

Also, when load shedding is persistent, the individual cellular towers don’t have enough time to recharge their backup battery systems, again resulting in poor or no coverage.

From the above, it is apparent that there are some steps that can be taken to overcome some of the woes of load shedding -it need not cost an arm and a leg and will go a long way in preserving productivity.

Businesses not only need to ensure they take the time to understand when their employees will be affected by power interruptions, but they also need to ensure that their hardware is protected. This can be done through asking the right technology provider for their expertise on the matter, helping the company understand what technology to acquire. A technical expert can also assist in making sure that the business and its employees who now WFH are connected. Organisations should act now to protect their hardware and maintain productivity during load shedding thereby enabling Business Continuity (BC).

Editorial contacts:

Silvermoon, a Galix company

Raeford Liebenberg

Tel: 011 472 7157

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